Over the course of a year, my company spent over $25,000 on conferences and trade-shows. Quite a lot of money for a start-up, but something that we found to be absolutely necessary to generate enterprise-level client leads and expand our pipeline. To see a return on our investment, we would need to generate over $25,000 worth of deals from these conferences.
A feat that we achieved with flying colors.
My company has built recognition in the franchise restaurant world because my team and I hustled extremely hard at each conference. We didn’t let the business come to us; instead, we went out there and took it for ourselves.
This post highlights in detail the techniques and methods I use to close client deals from a conference or trade-show.
The real networking happens at the event, not the exhibition floor
I quickly learned that only fools stand by their booth all day at a conference.
I’ll let you in on a secret that I learned while at conferences: the people that approach your trade-show booth are NOT decision makers; the real decisions makers (the professionals you are looking to meet) avoid the exhibition floor at all costs and can be found at the speaker panels and keynotes events.
Go to the actual event and network with everyone. Be knowledgeable, be helpful, and invite professionals to come check you out at your booth later when the exhibition floor opens.
If you spent the majority if your time at your conference booth, then you’ve just wasted your investment.
Host a breakout session and bring printed materials
Quite often, conferences have breakout sessions where conference sponsors can lead discussions about a particular topic. To lead a breakout session, speak with the conference coordinator and organize accordingly.
The mistake that I see most sponsors make is that they go into the breakout session completely blind and unprepared because they feel they’re already an expert on the topic that they’re moderating. It’s the mistake of overconfidence.
Prepare + bring handout materials: Everyone in your breakout session will be surprised to find that you not only have a 5-7 minute presentation about the topic, but that you brought handout materials as well. Make sure these handout materials are helpful guides or industry reports about your topic – don’t just hand out marketing materials.
Also, make sure to get everyone in your discussion group involved. People will leave and get bored if you monopolize the conversation.
3 weeks prior/3 weeks post method
As a conference sponsor, you get a list of attendees for the event. I’ve noticed that the majority of sponsors don’t take advantage of the list to build hype and generate leads prior to the conference or after the conference.
The email method that works: For 3 weeks before the conference, my team and I send out a weekly email with helpful tips and strategies about the industry and how it’s related to my company. The goal is to be helpful and informative, and let the attendees know that we’re experts in our field.
For 3 weeks after the conference, my team and I will send a weekly email with lessons and how to’s learned from the conference. This is particularly helpful to professionals who attended the conference because they have to report back to their team about what they learned.
Use the three methods described above to stand out from the crowd and make sure you get a solid ROI from your conference or trade-show investment.
Jun Loayza is the Co-Founder of RewardMe, a customer loyalty program for restaurants and retailers. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has sold 2 internet companies and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi’s, LG, and Activision. Jun currently lives in Mountain View, CA with his girlfriend and startup team.